Surgeon Ezra Green, Continental Navy
Ezra Green, Jr. was born June 17, 1746 in Malden, Massachusetts. He was the son of Ezra, Sr. and Eunice (Burrell) Green, his second wife. Ezra Green, Jr. graduated from Harvard College in 1765, and commenced the study of medicine and surgery with Dr. Sprague, of Malden, finishing his course with Dr. Fisher, of Newburyport, New Hampshire. He then went to Dover, New Hampshire, in 1767, where he led a successful practice until he left to join the Continental Army.
Ezra Green, Jr. joined the 3rd New Hampshire Regiment as its Surgeon on June 27, 1775. After the evacuation of Boston by the British, he left with our army for New York, going by way of Providence, Norwich and New London, where they embarked. Having remained in New York a few weeks, they proceeded up the Hudson to Albany, thence by batteaux to Saratoga; landed, and marched to Lake George; remained about a fortnight; went down Lake George in batteaux, and stopped at Ticonderoga; thence proceeded by Lake Champlain to St. John’s; thence to Montreal, and joined Arnold. There the army suffered greatly from sickness. Dr. Green was with the troops which occupied Mount Independence until December, when, on the advance of the British under Sir Guy Carleton, the American forces retreated to Ticonderoga.
The following letter, addressed to his friend “Mr. Nath’l Cooper,” at Dover, New-Hampshire, graphically describes the situation of the American army at that time:
Ticonderoga, Oct. 30, 1776.
I must beg your pardon for troubling you with so many of my letters, but I am a good deal at leisure, and so lucky an opportunity- of conveyance offers, that I can’t let it pass without sending you one line or two. Since my last, our Fleet is destroyed, of which I suppose you have heard, but 5 vessels remaining to us out of 16 sail. The engagement began on Friday morning, October 11th, and held out all day. They surrounded our Fleet, but in the night succeeding the engagement they very narrowly and fortunately made their escape and came up towards Crown Point, but were overtaken and attacked again Sunday morning, within about 25 miles of this place. Our men fought bravely, but the enemy were of so much greater force than we had any suspicion of that our little fleet stood no chance; most of the vessels lost were blown up, sunk, or burnt by our own people, they escaping by land. We lost, killed, about 50; taken prisoners, about 100, which are dismissed on parole. The Indians have done us no damage till very lately they waylaid three men, kill’d one, took the other two prisoners, who are sent back on parole. They were treated very kindly by the Indians as well as by the King’s troops who were at the time at Crown Point within 15 miles of this place, where they have been ever since the destruction of our Fleet. We have lately been alarm’d several times. On Monday morning last, there was a proper alarm, occasioned by a number of the enemies boats which hove in sight, and a report from a scouting party that the Enemy were moving on; where the Fleet is now, I can’t learn, or what is the reason they don’t come on I can’t conceive. ‘Tis thought they are 10 or 12 thousand strong, including Canadians and Indians. We are in a much better situation now than we were fourteen days ago, and the militia are continually coming in. Our sick are recovering, and it is thought we are as ready for them now as ever we shall be. There has been a vast deal of work done since the fight, and we think ourselves in so good a position that we shall be disappointed if they don’t attack us. However, I believe they wait for nothing but a fair wind. In my next, I’ll tell you more about it. In the meantime I am yours to command.
My respects to your lady and love to your children.
P. S. I have some thought of leaving the army and joining the navy, provided I can get a berth as surgeon of a good continental ship or a privateer. Should be glad if you would enquire, if you don’t know, and send me word what Incouragement [sic] is given; and let me know if any ships are fitting out from Portsmouth, and you’ll oblige your friend, E. G.
Dr. Green remained with the troops which occupied Mount Independence until they left the position in December, when he returned to Albany, and there left the army and returned to Dover, New-Hampshire. All through the following summer, he was afflicted with fever and ague, but in October, 1777, accepted an appointment as Surgeon of the continental frigate Ranger, then fitting out in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, under the command of Captain John Paul Jones, and nearly ready for sea. They sailed, as his diary shows, on November 1, 1777, for France. The following letter, written to his friend Mr. Cooper, describes the passage out:
On Board the Ranger, Peanbeauf Road,
Dec. 4, 1777.
By a Gentleman who is writing I have an opportunity just to present my respects to yourself and lady, and to inform you of my safe arrival at Peanbeauf 27 miles below Nantz on the 2d of December current, after a passage of 32 days. Our people all in good health and high spirits. We had as good weather as we could wish ’till within a week of our arrival. In the Bay of Biscay we had a very heavy Gale of Wind, but it continued but about 48 hours. Saw but one ship of war, and she was in the chops of the English Channel, with a Fleet under convoy. —- —- I have the happiness to inform you of the Capture of two Brigs, on the 25th and 27th of November, both from Malaga laden with wine and fruit, which on my own and friends account could wish with all my heart were in Portsmouth, New-Hampshire. They were ordered to some part of France, but have not yet heard of their arrival. There is nothing new here. The French say but little about a war, being very intent on getting money. Here are a number of vessels fitting out for America in the trading way. The news of Gen. Burgoine affair got here just before us, and before this time is in all parts of Europe.
I don’t expect we shall go from this Place these six weeks, as there is a great deal wanting to be done to the ship before she will go to sea again.
It seems probable to me that she will be ordered directly back to America, as soon as may be. In the meantime I am,
With the greatest sincerity & respect,
Your humble servant,
Dr. Green continued in the Ranger until her return to Portsmouth in October, 1778, when he left her, and returned to Dover. While on this leave, Dr. Green married Susannah Hayes, of Dover, by the Reverend Jeremy Belknap on December 13, 1778.
When the Ranger was refitted in the following spring, under the command of his friend, Captain T. Simpson, he rejoined her as surgeon, and sailed in her on a cruise in company with the Warren, 32 guns, Commodore J. B. Hopkins, and Queen of France, 28, Capt. J. Olney; the latter a French ship, which had been purchased at Nantes for the American government.
While on this cruise, in March, they captured “a privateer schooner of 14 guns, and on April 6th, the schooner Hibernia, of 8 guns and 45 men, and the next morning, off Cape Henry, six more of a fleet of nine vessels, viz.: Jason, Capt. Porterfield, 20 guns, 150 men; Maria, letter of marque, 16 guns, 80 men, cargo of flour, &c.; and brigs Prince Frederick, Patriot, Bachelors John, and schooner Chance, all laden with stores for the British army.” Among the prisoners taken was a Colonel Campbell, and twenty-three army officers of lesser rank, on their way to join their regiments at the south.All these vessels were brought into Portsmouth, New Hampshire, three weeks after the squadron sailed from thence.
On another cruise, Ranger, still commanded by Captain Simpson, in company with the Providence, 28, Commodore A. Whipple, and Queen of France, 28, Capt. J. P. Rathburn, on July 17, 1779, when on the Banks of Newfoundland, fell in with the Jamaica fleet, homeward bound, consisting of one hundred and fifty sail, convoyed by a ship-of-the-line, and several cruisers, and succeeded in capturing eleven large ships, of seven to eight hundred tons, three of which were re-taken; but seven of them, whose cargoes were estimated to be worth $1,000,000, were brought safely into Boston. All Boston was alarmed at the sight of the little continental squadron and its prizes — ten large ships standing directly into the harbor, — believing them to be a British fleet. The buildings were covered with spectators. The cargoes, consisting of “rum, sugar, logwood, pimento, &c., were delivered one half to the government and one half to the captors.”
On his return from this successful cruise, Dr. Green resigned his position as surgeon of the Ranger in favor of Dr. Parker, of Exeter, and returned to Dover.
In 1780 he sailed on another cruise in the Alexander, Captain Mitchell, 14 guns, but they accomplished nothing. In 1781, the vessel having been fitted up as a letter of marque, under Captain Simpson, they sailed her to Fredericksburg, Virginia, and took thence a load of tobacco to Lorient, France. He returned in the Alexander to the United States in the autumn of that year, which concluded his revolutionary services.
Dr. Green returned for Dover for good and lived a long life and for many years enjoyed being the oldest living graduate of Harvard. Dr. Green passed away at the age of 101 on July 25, 1847.
Sources: Green, E., Preble, G. Henry., Green, W. Cooper. (1875). Diary of Ezra Green, M. D., surgeon on board the continental ship-of-war “Ranger,”: under John Paul Jones, from November 1, 1777, to September 27, 1778 … Boston: [D. Clapp & son, printers]; Nathan F. Carter, The Native Ministry of New Hampshire (Concord, 1906) p. 18. The New England Historical and Genealogical Register, 29 (1875):170-80; Francis B. Heitman, Historical Register of Officers of the Continental Army, (Baltimore, 1914) p. 259; Selected Wartime Service Records for Surgeon Dr. Ezra Green, Jr.